Has Tony handed him a poison chalice?
With the attention being on the new “soft focus” Gordon Brown’s wider role few people seem to have picked up on a couple of paragraphs in the Observer at the weekend about Labour’s campaign for the May local elections.
For with a “a bloodbath of councillors across the country” expected the plan, apparently, is that Gordon Brown should have a role that means that he takes the rap for any failures.
According to the report “..Downing Street has already decided that Brown will be the ‘face’ of the local election campaign in the trickiest seats in another sign of the dual premiership strategy unfolding. Conveniently, making him jointly responsible for any losses would also stop Brownites using a disastrous result as a springboard to challenge Blair. ‘There’s a very good reason why Gordon has to remain as the person leading the local campaign,’ says one Blair ally. ‘If a coup is going to happen between May and September, it would be on the back of bad results there.’ The embracing of Brown, in other words, may be in part killing him with kindness…”
There’s a similar theme in a commentary by Steve Richards in the Independent this morning under the heading “Don’t believe the talk of a joint premiership – the leadership issue is as unresolved as ever”.
Richards comments: “…Indeed it is one of the great ironies of the current febrile situation that some of Blair’s closest disciples are convinced that only they have a formula for winning elections. In suggesting that Brown has not understood their winning ways, they clear a path for Cameron. I am told that at Labour’s spring conference at the weekend, some Blairites could not disguise their delight over Labour’s defeat at the Dunfermline by-election in which Brown had played a major role. Such public displays of glee in their party’s humiliation confirm that talk of a formally agreed joint premiership is a wild fantasy…”
In the Labour leadership betting punters are still uncertain about whether Gordon Brown is a certainty or not. Immediately after Labour’s Brighton conference in September all looked fairly clear and the price tightened to 0.25/1. Since then it has bobbed up and down reaching 0.55/1 just after Cameron became Tory leader in December. In recent weeks the price has been hovering in the 0.42/1 to 0.48/1 region with no real conviction.
The problem for Brown is that as soon as Blair announces his resignation date the whole world will look different and the media would love to see a contest. And a contest means danger – just ask fellow Fife MP Ming Campbell
The Chancellor looks as though he would like to have the leadership bestowed upon without a fight. But journalists love shocks and surprises because that makes better news. Just look at the way they homed in on Mark Oaten in the much less important Lib Dem situation after Kennedy stepped aside.
This is a market I have been in and out of since last November when I laid (bet against) Brown down it at 0.35/1. I got out at a profit when it reached 0.5/1 and I’m now trying to work out whether to go in again.